WASHINGTON • Tens of thousands of people were expected to march in Washington yesterday to denounce racism, protest against police brutality and commemorate the anniversary of the march in 1963 where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr made his “I have a dream” speech.
In his historic and often-repeated speech, Mr King envisioned a time when his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.
Its 57th anniversary comes at the end of a summer of racial unrest and nationwide protests, sparked by the death of Mr George Floyd, an unarmed African American, after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Earlier this week, protests seized Kenosha, Wisconsin, after police officers shot another African American man, Mr Jacob Blake, multiple times in front of his young children while his back was turned.
Mr Blake survived the shooting but has been paralysed, his lawyers told reporters earlier this week.
Yesterday’s planned protest, called Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks, was planned in the wake of Mr Floyd’s death by civil rights activist Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Mr Ben Crump, the civil rights lawyer representing Mr Blake and Mr Floyd’s family, will speak, as will Reverend Sharpton, Mr Floyd’s family members, and Mr King’s son Martin Luther King III, among others.
After speeches at the Lincoln Memorial, participants will walk to the Martin Luther King memorial about a kilometre away.
The march also comes as black people have suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed about 180,000 Americans.
In addition to the live march, there will be a virtual commemoration featuring Reverend William Barber, a prominent civil rights activist and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. It will also include civil rights activists, politicians, artists and entertainers.
Mr Kerrigan Williams, a founder of Freedom Fighters DC, said the group was organising its own march yesterday after the Washington march, to promote a more radical agenda that includes replacing police departments with other public safety systems.
Separately, a wing of the Movement for Black Lives, a network of black activists and organisations, had scheduled the Black National Convention for last night, following national conventions by the Democratic and Republican parties. It will feature about 100 black activists, said an organiser.